Ezio smiled and clapped Dogan on the shoulder. “That’s the kind of talk I like to hear!”
He made to take his leave.
“Where will you go now?” asked Dogan.
“I’m going to join Yusuf at the Den of the Grand Bazaar. Send word to me there if the Templars do regroup.”
“In that unlikely event, you will be the first to know.”
“And tend to your wounded. That sergeant of yours took a bad cut to the head.”
“It is being attended to as we speak.”
“Can I get there by using the zipline system?”
“Once you reach the south bank of the Horn. But you must cross that by ferry. It’s the fastest way to the peninsula.”
“There was to have been a bridge, but for some reason it was never built.”
“Ah yes,” said Ezio. “I remember somebody mentioning that.” He put out his hand. “Allaha ismarladik,” he said.
“Güle güle.” Dogan smiled back.
The Den Ezio needed to reach was located not far from the Bazaar, in the Imperial District, between the Bazaar itself and the ancient church of Haghia Sofia, now converted by the Ottomans into a mosque.
But the fighting Ezio reached was taking place a short distance to the southwest, close to the docks on the southern shores of the city. He stood for a moment on a rooftop, observing the battle, which was in full spate in the streets and on the quays below him. A rope from a wooden stake near him stretched down to a point near where he could see Yusuf, his back to the waters of the dock, in the thick of the fray. Yusuf was fending off a half dozen burly mercenaries, and his companions were too busy themselves to come to his aid. Ezio hooked onto the rope and swooped down, jumping from the rope at a height of twelve feet and spread-eagling himself, left-hand hidden-blade extended, to land on the backs of two of Yusuf’s attackers, sending them sprawling. They were dead before they could react, and Ezio stood over them as the remaining four in their group turned to face him, giving Yusuf enough respite to edge round to their flank. Ezio kept his hookblade extended.
As the four Templar troopers fell roaring on Ezio, Yusuf rushed them from the side, his own hidden-blade brought quickly into play. One huge soldier was almost upon Ezio, having backed him up against a warehouse wall, when he remembered the hook-and-roll technique and used it to escape from, and fell, his opponent, stabbing the man’s writhing body with his hidden-blade to deliver the coup de grace. Meanwhile, Yusuf had dispatched two of the others, while the survivor took to his heels.
Elsewhere, fierce fighting was simmering down as Yusuf’s brigade got the better of the Templars, who finally fled, cursing, into the depths of the city to the north.
“Glad you arrived in time to meet my new playmates,” said Yusuf, wiping and sheathing his sword, and retracting his hidden-blade, as Ezio did likewise. “You fought like a tiger, my friend, like a man late for his own—wedding.”
“Do you not mean funeral?”
“You would not mind being late for that.”
“Well, if we’re talking about a wedding, I’m twenty-five years late already.” Ezio pushed the familiar darkening mood aside and squared his shoulders. “Did I arrive in time to save the Bazaar Den?”
Yusuf shrugged regretfully. “Alas, no. We’ve only managed to save our own skins. The Bazaar Den is taken. Unfortunately, I arrived too late to regain it. They were too well entrenched.”
“Don’t despair. The Galata Den is safe. The Assassins we used there can join us here.”
Yusuf brightened. “With my ‘army’ doubled in size, we’ll take the Bazaar back together! Come! This way!”
They made their way through the market streets and the massive, glittering maze of the souk itself, the splendid, frenetic, gold-and-red Grand Bazaar, with its myriad lanes of little shops selling everything from scents to spices to sheepskins to costly Persian carpets from Isfahan and Kabul, cedarwood furniture, swords and armor, brass and silver coffeepots with snaking spouts and elongated necks, tulip-shaped glasses for tea and larger, slender ones for sharbat—a cornucopia selling everything in the world a man could imagine or desire, amid a babel of traders’ voices raised in at least a dozen different languages.
Once they’d passed out of the northeastern side, they came to streets nearer the Den. Here, the Templar presence was strong. The buildings were hung with their banners, and the merchants who did business there, Ezio could see, were not infrequently being harassed or otherwise bullied by Byzantine toughs.
“As you can see,” Yusuf was telling him, “when the Templars take over a district, they like to flaunt it. It’s a constant battle to keep them at bay; they like nothing better than to rub our noses in every victory they enjoy.”
“But why does the sultan do nothing? This is his city!”
“Sultan Bayezid is far away. There aren’t enough Ottoman resources for the governor here to keep matters in check. If it weren’t for us . . .” Yusuf trailed off, then continued, following another train of thought. “The sultan is at war with his son, Selim, many leagues northwest of the city. He’s been away for years, at least since the great earthquake in 1509, and even before that he was almost always absent. He is blind to all this turmoil.”
“The earthquake?” Ezio remembered news of that reaching Rome. Over a hundred mosques had been reduced to rubble, along with a thousand other buildings, and ten thousand citizens had lost their lives.
“You should have seen it. We called it the Lesser Day of Judgment. The huge waves it caused in the Sea of Marmara almost brought down the southern walls. But the sultan’s eyes remained closed, even to that warning.”
“Ah, but your eyes are open, sì?”
“Like two full moons. Believe me.”
They had reached a large open karesi, thronged with Templar mercenaries, who began to eye them suspiciously as they crossed the square.
“Too many to engage directly,” Yusuf said. “We’d better use one of these.”
He delved into the pouch at his side and produced a bomb.
“What’s that—a smoke bomb?” Ezio said. “Hmn. I’m not confident that that will help us here.”
Yusuf laughed. “Smoke bomb? Dear Ezio—Mentor—it’s really high time you Italians joined the sixteenth century. These bombs do not obscure—they distract. Watch.”